Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hypoxia and Aerospace Physiology Training

Hypoxia - a state of oxygen deficiency in the blood, tissues, and cells sufficient to cause an impairment of body functions.  It is one thing to read about Hypoxia in a book and quite another to experience it first hand.  Thanks to a program administered by the FAA, in conjunction with Beale Air Force Base, I was able to experience Hypoxia first hand in a safe environment, and I now know what my specific symptoms are.

First, I felt light-headed, followed soon there after by an inability to concentrate (some might say that I have that problem normally, but that's another story).  This made it extremely difficult to complete the basic math problems that were presented to me by an Air Force instructor.  The final symptom I experienced and the one that encouraged me to reach for the oxygen mask, was tunnel vision.  There is only one word to explain tunnel vision…. Yikes!  I would prefer to never "experience" tunnel vision again, but the experience did serve an important purpose, because now I am aware of my personal hypoxic symptoms.  If I ever experience those symptoms while flying at altitude, I will now know what is happening and I can take immediate corrective action.

The program that I enrolled in is called Aerospace Physiology Training and is available to most civil aviation pilots that hold a valid medical certificate.  The training is conducted at the FAA facility in Oklahoma City, OK and at various Air Force Bases around the country.  The nearest training location to Long Beach, CA (where I live) is Beale Air Force Base (40 miles north of Sacramento) and the cost is only $50.  That includes a full day of interesting instruction on various topics such as Aviation Oxygen Equipment, Respiration/Circulation, Spatial Disorientation and one hour in the altitude chamber.  As a bonus you will see a lot of neat aircraft in action at Beale, plus you could fly there and add to your cross-country time!

To learn more about this program or to register for it, go to and click "Training and Testing" on the upper right side, followed by "Pilot Training" , then click "Airman Education Programs", and finally "Aerospace Physiology Training".  Good luck and happy flying!

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